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Orebs and Zeebs

God’s foes seem strong for a time, but they become mere tumbleweed

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This is the latest in a series of classic columns (edited for space) by Joel Belz. Joel wrote this column for the Aug. 13, 2011, issue of WORLD.

Every 20 years or so in this space I suppose it’s appropriate, and maybe even important, to mention Oreb and Zeeb. Certainly you know whom I mean; I did, after all, identify them in a column early in 1992.

Oreb and Zeeb were the princes of Midian who struck fear in the hearts of the Israelites during the time of Gideon. As I mentioned, Oreb and Zeeb are mighty in the annals of those who have offended God’s program of righteousness on this earth. They were the Muammar Qaddafis of their day, or the Bashar al-Assads, or the Kim Il Sungs, or the Mahmoud Ahmadinejads. Oreb and Zeeb, even if they were easier to spell and to pronounce, were just as terrifying in their time.

But more than likely, if you’re a typical WORLD reader, you didn’t have a clue about these fellows when I mentioned Oreb and Zeeb. I had to look them up myself in a Bible dictionary after first reading about them in Psalm 83. Oreb and Zeeb, you see, were sufficiently threatening to God’s people—and to God’s order of things—to merit mention as symbols of the enemy. But in the end, the psalmist reports, they were no more than tumbleweed.

WORLD, of course, is not first and foremost a theological journal. That’s why you don’t see in our columns long debates about eschatology. If you aren’t sure whether you’re a premillennialist or a postmillennialist, you’re not likely to find much explicit help on that ­subject in our pages. (I still identify with what one of my college roommates, who went on to become a seminary dean, told me late one evening, that through the day he had listened to “the pre-mils, the a-mils, and the post-mils—and I’m still just an ig-mil.”)

Uncertainty about the precise details of the end times, however, is one thing. Ignorance of the broad intention of God’s program is quite another. So let us assert again and again here what His main program is: Jehovah is going to win.

The big question for a very long time, of course, has been when that triumph is going to occur. When is Jesus coming again? How much of His victory will He secure before He comes, and how much waits until after His return? Wherever you come down on those questions, be sure that you decide based on the evidence you find in the Bible—not by news headlines. And here’s one thing the Bible tells you with certainty: Everybody who raises himself against God gets put down. Not just sometime in the future, but relatively soon.

The long succession of such people might prompt you to think that evil is winning. But viewed from another perspective, the very succession of evildoers should be an encouragement to us. One by one by one, arrogant people try to take God’s place. One by one by one, they stub their toes and fail. After hundreds and maybe thousands of efforts, not a single one has come close to taking God’s place.

Oreb and Zeeb are good examples. Nor do you need to think of their modern counterparts only as military or political terrorists. Maybe Oreb and Zeeb were the forerunners of Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud, Charles Darwin, or John Dewey—philosophical terrorists whose destruction has probably surpassed that of the physical variety. And God’s people have always seemed so impotent in the face of the Midianites who were coming to get them.

But who knows or is scared of or awed by Oreb and Zeeb these days? They merit a place in Scripture simply so they can be compared to tumbleweed.

And the tumbleweed isn’t scheduled to start its ignominious roll only after Jesus returns—although that will certainly happen with finality then. The defeat of such people and influences is going on right now. Some of the names and movements that struck terror in your heart when you were a child are already has-beens. That’s one place where the teaching of Scripture and the news media tend to agree.

Joel Belz

Joel Belz (1941–2024) was WORLD’s founder and a regular contributor of commentary for WORLD Magazine and WORLD Radio. He served as editor, publisher, and CEO for more than three decades at WORLD and was the author of Consider These Things. Visit WORLD’s memorial tribute page.


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